It’s not often you get more than you bargained for.
Jonathan Pippen (solo trombonist – RAF Central Band) reviews the JP231Rath Bb trombone and the JP332Rath Bb/F trombone and discovers that you can get quality performance without the quality price tag. These instruments are ideal for aspiring players from student to semi pro and beyond. Their price means that they are accessible whether the player is a student in education or a player in a training band. Each one carries the indelible fingerprint of the effort that Michael Rath has put into this collaboration.
The article below is reproduced by kind courtesy of Brass Band World monthly magazine.
‘The new JP/Rath trombones: ‘unsurpassed value for money’
Brass Band World magazine gave trombonist, Jonathan Pippen, the JP332 and 231 Rath trombones to road-test and he was bowled over by the unrivalled quality to price ratio.
"These new offerings from John Packer, designed by British trombone guru, Michael Rath, promise much in the way of quality to price ratio. It's been my task over the last week or so to put the trombones through their paces, to provide you with an impartial review of their performance.
For your perspective, these are student trombones, but with a build and playing quality intended to take you further into your playing career than an instrument from another manufacturer perhaps would.
Both instruments are presented in a hard case with cloth cover incorporating handle and shoulder straps. The bustle of the school bus won’t be a worry here and the case is sturdy enough to place in any aircraft hold. The only down side is that, for the instruments to fit in these cases, you have to push the main tuning slide in. An oversight on an instrument marketed towards young players, but one that is easily remedied.
The JP231 Rath is a .525" medium large bore trombone, which is exactly the sort of instrument most players will start on and most teachers will recommend. The first impression when taking it out of the case is that the slide feels substantial. Heavy even. This trombone is a straight Bb model with 8-inch bell. It has a warm sound, more akin to a large bore instrument, but production feels easy. It’s well balanced and comfortable to hold and, like the slide, the bell section also feels weighty and the metal of the bell is pretty thick. The intonation is sound and the positions fall where ‘A Tune a Day’ says they should. No problems to report here.
It's worth stating here that the slide action is one of the finest I've ever felt on an instrument straight out of the packet and, with a little lubrication, is at least as good as I'm used to on my professional instrument. The slide action on the .547" bore JP332 Rath is exactly the same, so no fluke there. The slides are simply superb.
The 300 series instruments offer the option of an F attachment on either the medium or large bore instruments in the JP Rath range. The trombone I tested is the large bore JP 332, which has a closed wrap F section and standard rotary valve with specialist Rath cap. It’s also supplied with a counterweight on the tuning slide that helps to balance the trombone when the slide is extended past the 8.5-inch bell. As a large bore Bb/F instrument, this trombone finds itself up against stiff competition from all quarters of the industry. It's slap bang in the middle of Conn 88h and Bach 42 territory, and I have to say that even in this company it’s no slouch at all. The playing characteristic is full and mellow, and the heavy bell centres the sound. Production feels easy through the registers; the trigger functions well and has a fast action that helps with production of the low Ds, and Cs. The valve cap, which is a little heavier than a standard one, also helps to centre the notes on the F side.
The smaller of the two instruments (JP231 Rath) would be perfect for a beginner and it would not be out of place in the hands of a professional as a spare or emergency trombone while working in the big band or pop industry. The build quality is far in excess of its £432 price tag, which is one of the most competitive in the business.
The larger instrument raises more questions regarding its place in the world of beginner / intermediate instruments. In honesty, I think the weight and added expense of the F attachment will impede its use as an instrument for a seven-ten-year-old beginner, but its quality of build and playing characteristics are those of an instrument that would cost far over the £826 rrp. For the money, this is without doubt one of the finest instruments on the market.
These trombones succeed in offering a money-quality ratio that, to my knowledge, no other manufacturer has achieved. As a ‘starter instrument’, I would have no hesitation in recommending these trombones and encouraging the use of the straight variety. I would suggest that young or smaller beginners should avoid the Bb/F model simply because of weight, but once secondary school age is reached this ceases to be an issue. The Bb/F trombone will be a useful addition to any music service or school music cupboard because, to all intents and purposes, it will do the job of a professional instrument and, of course, functions as a bass trombone for a youth band or orchestra. These are solid functional trombones and, in my opinion, offer unsurpassed value for money."